Tri Indah Oktavianti, Jakarta – Ninety-one endangered animals endemic to Indonesia that had been smuggled to the Philippines have returned to their home country.
Comprising reptiles, mammals and birds, such as wallabies, cassowaries and Papuan blyth's hornbills, the animals arrived at Bitung Port in North Sulawesi on Thursday morning.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry's law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, Bitung Mayor Maximilian J. Lomban and North Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA) head Noel Layuk Allo welcomed them upon their return home.
"The animals will stay at the Tasikosi Animal Rescue Center in Bitung before eventually being released in their natural habitats," the ministry's law enforcement directorate general spokesperson, Dodi Kurniawan, said in a statement.
Philippine authorities had confiscated the trafficked animals, which are considered endangered under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), on April 2019.
SunStar Philippines reported at the time that Davao's Department of Environment and Natural Resources had rescued 300 species of wild animals.
Local law enforcers also arrested two men for allegedly smuggling the animals from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea by sea.
Rasio said in the statement that the ministry's biodiversity conservation director, Indra Exploitasia Semiawan, who also serves as the CITES Management Authority in Indonesia, had been working to repatriate the animals.
"A court in the city of Mati in Davao ordered in October 2019 the return of 134 animals to Indonesia," Rasio said.
While both countries agreed on the repatriation, only 91 animals were considered fit for a journey to Indonesia.
He went on to say that the Indonesian government had been investigating several animal trade operations, including sales made online.
"The ministry is cooperating with several other countries and Interpol to curb this transnational crime. We have uncovered more than 300 cases involving the illegal trade of endangered species," Rasio said.
According to the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law, anyone found guilty of trading endangered animals and plants can be sentenced to a maximum of five years and prison and required to pay a fine of Rp 100 million (US$6,934).